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Local educators discuss upcoming SAT changes

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Changes to an exam many students take before applying to college could mean changes in local classrooms.

Clark-Pleasant teachers start showing students vocabulary words they’ll see on the SAT exam as early as fifth grade. Right now students aren’t likely to see words, such as anachronistic and deleterious, anywhere else, and teachers want to start preparing students for the SAT early, so they’ll have the best chance at earning a top score, assistant superintendent John Schilawski said.

But in two years, the SAT will look considerably different than it does now.

Students will be tested on vocabulary words they’ll be more likely to use in college and their careers, including synthesis and empirical. Students will also read passages from science, history and social studies texts, whereas right now there’s no requirement that science or history reading be included on the exam.

Nearly 60 percent of Whiteland Community High School’s 2013 graduates had taken the SAT in 2013, and Schilawski wants to see specific examples of the kinds of questions students will be asked on the updated exam.

Clark-Pleasant officials don’t want to overhaul math and language arts lessons based on changes to one test. But the school district wants to be sure students are prepared for the test many of them will take before applying to college, Schilawski said.

The SAT has long been the most common test taken by Indiana students before college, though a second entrance exam, the ACT, is becoming more popular.

At Greenwood Community High School, teachers and counselors have been encouraging more students to take the ACT, which does a better job of measuring what students have learned in school, guidance director Bill Ronk said.

“Now, more than ever, that really is where the focus should be,” Ronk said.

Between 56 and 78 percent of last year’s high school graduates took the SAT, including 75 percent of Greenwood’s seniors. But the ACT is gaining popularity countywide — about 36 percent of Johnson County’s 2013 graduates took the ACT, up from about 34 percent in 2012.

The questions on the SAT typically have been a better predictor of a student’s aptitude as opposed to what they’ve actually learned in school, and the planned changes will make the exam more comparable to the ACT, Ronk said.

Because the exam will cover more material students are taught in school, such as the passages from the Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address, families won’t necessarily have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on study materials to prepare their children to take the SAT, Ronk said.

But while the changes to the SAT will include more questions over what students have been taught in school, Ronk doesn’t believe the test will become more valuable than the ACT, which teachers will continue to encourage students to take, he said.

“Their change is a little too little too late for us. We’ve kind of moved on,” Ronk said.

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